Listening to the Warm

And so we begin another year. This year we are alight with hope for the days that will come. As "mushy" as it sounds this year amongst the staff there actually seems to be a glow as if we are pregnant with ideas. There is a warmth a sharing of ideas and pedagogy. But most important people are communicating with each other. Of course there still exists the administrative witch hunt but this is part of the trade.

Rod McKuen (despite a lot of evidence to the contrary) was a good poet and one of his poems which touched me the deepest was "Listen to the Warm." How it touched me was in that revered silence that was sung, danced, argued and fought about -- that personal nirvana we reach through meditation. Keep in mind everyone's form of meditation is different. Some of us are lotus eaters while others of us dance around the fire naked; some find it in the rush of adrenaline and others in the push towards perfection. It is all mediation and as Edgar Cayce said "…meditation is man listening to god."

The "warm" in this case is the communal understanding of our community within the school walls. The acceptance we have in our roles as teachers, therapists, friends: family. Our school does have a glow from this warm, a noticeable reflection of who and what we are.

But sometimes this warm is achieved in ways that are not so noticeable. And part of the listening that takes place is extremely difficult and hard to understand when it comes to our children. An experience I had early this school year was with a returning student. A student whom I believe I "know" pretty well (which translates into the concept that Johnny "trusts" me) was acting out in the lunch room, typical acting seeking attention in negative ways. Unfortunately, these negative ways often and do erupt into major acting out. In this case twelve year old Johnny erupted into cursing, flailing his arms and trying to toss over the tables. It is not often we have to physically restrain a child but there are times when these things become necessary. This day it was necessary.

Using a Crisis Prevention Institute, Inc. certified "standing basket hold" I held Johnny, his arms across his chest as he screamed his obscenities and demands for me to let him go and in his frustration he wept. These were wracking sobs deep weeping that was more than the external dilemma that Johnny was dealing with at the moment. His sobs came from somewhere deep inside his "listening" and the "warm" was so entrenched and devastating -- there are places within our children that no matter how deep and twisted we go we most likely will have never experienced the hurt, shame or pain of our children.

It was there in a "restraint" that I understood what Johnny wanted, Johnny was not out of control, Johnny wanted someone to hold him, someone he could bury his tears into, someone who would make him feel safe. But in a Special Education school, a residential environment, a place where your peers watch every move you make and then hold it against you, a place where machismo is more important than emotion, a place where respect really equates to fear.  Johnny could not be seen crying in someone's arms. We stood against the wall my forehead pressed into the wall above his, Johnny's arms still crossed over his chest but instead of gripping his wrists I let my arms hang around him. Yes, outwardly Johnny was being restrained by Mr. K. But inwardly, this bond we had, this understanding, Johnny knew, he knew I knew, and he understood that this was the time to cry And yes, Johnny wept, and he brought up all that warm that swirled inside him and he let it bubble out of him one tear at a time.